Theology 101

Despite His Fear and Weakness, Abraham Is Counted Among the Righteous Rich

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In a recent post, we discussed the misguided belief that righteousness inevitably leads to riches. Although we cannot say that the one necessarily leads to the other, it is undeniably true that God has, at different times and places, blessed people with great wealth.

One of the Old Testament patriarchs that was clearly blessed by God and also very rich was Abraham. Abraham’s servant says about him in Genesis 24:35:

The Lord has greatly blessed my master, so that he has become rich; and he has given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and servants, and maids and camels and donkeys.

Abraham clearly was blessed by God, and despite Abraham’s vacillating faith in God, God continued to bless him. In Genesis 12:2-3, God had promised:

I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

It is written in Genesis 13:2, “Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold.” However, at least some of this initial wealth came from Pharaoh because of Abraham’s lie.

Abraham pretended that Sarai was his sister, not his wife, and Scripture says that Pharaoh “treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels.”

When Pharaoh found out about Abraham’s lie through a resulting plague on Pharaoh’s house, he exiled him forcefully with military accompaniment.

Later in his life Abraham fell into the same kind of lie about Sarah with King Abimelech. God warned the king in a dream that she was Abraham’s wife, not his sister. Genesis 20:14-16 says Abimelech sent Abraham away with “sheep and oxen and male and female servants….a thousand pieces of silver” and the choice of whatever land he wanted.

Christopher Wright says there is no doubt Abraham’s wealth is set in the context of God’s blessing (Gen. 12:1f). He concludes that “it is, in fact, the very first context in which wealth is mentioned at all in the Bible, and its strong connection with the blessing of God is apparent.”

This is no doubt true, although God’s mercy and purpose continued despite Abraham’s recurring fear and weakness. Abraham had fought to bring back Lot and was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s request, but was not always a model of integrity.

Isaac, following in the line of blessing, also became wealthy. Genesis 26:12-13 says:

Now Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. And the Lord blessed him, and the man became rich, and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy.

Wright says that,

[The patriarchal narratives] thus portray the righteous rich as those who receive God’s blessing…and participate in God’s mission of blessing others. Given that…this is the first substantial appearance of wealth in the Bible, it is important to note that it is set in a very wholesome light – in companionship with covenant, blessing, obedience, and mission.

Abraham was blessed with riches by God, but his righteousness also wavered at times. Next we will consider a man to whom God gave great wealth, whose righteousness was beyond question, and we will take a close look at what precise qualities he had that made him righteous.

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